Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Social Welfare

Advisor

Vicki Lens

Committee Members

Nancy Giunta

Dagmar Herzog

Subject Categories

Social Work

Keywords

Sexuality, older widowed and single Black women, older Black women's sexuality, Dating experiences of Older Black women, sexual behaviors, race, gender and sexuality, older female sexuality

Abstract

Interest in older adults’ sexuality is reflected in the significant growth of literature on sexuality and aging, especially in the last few decades, and in growing media interest in this topic. Clinicians, researchers, educators, journalists, policymakers, and other stakeholders continue to highlight the importance of sexuality and sexual health in the older population. However, available studies in this area pertain to older married people almost exclusively and the few available studies on widows focus exclusively on White women. To address this gap in knowledge, this study focused on older widowed and single Black women aged 65 to 75 years. Feminist theories guided my epistemological stance. Using a phenomenological approach to inquiry, I interviewed 14 Black women who self-identified as widowed, single, and older. Four major themes emerged in this study: Lonelier with age, moments of amazement, dating experiences, and I live in a paradox. Truth telling recorded the women’s experiences and their pursuit of social autonomy and sexual expression as older Black women.

This study uncovered several significant insights on the meaning that older single and widowed women ascribe to their sexuality as well as the impact of socio-cultural factors on that understanding. This study reinforced the sexuality of older single and widowed Black women as a further dimension of intersectionality. The implications of practice and policy pertain to social workers and providers who must assess fundamental historical and contemporary issues that older single and widowed women face while considering the convergence of sexuality, gender, and race.

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